Messi scores, but Inter Miami's 10-match MLS unbeaten streak ends in 3-1 loss to Atlanta

Atlanta hadn't won in the league in nearly two months.

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Lionel Messi scored yet again. It was the lone real highlight for Inter Miami, as its 10-match Major League Soccer winning streak was ended by an Atlanta United side that got its first league win in nearly two months.

Saba Lobjanidze scored once in each half, Jamal Thiaré helped put the game away with a goal in the 73rd minute and Atlanta United snapped a nine-match MLS winless streak with a 3-1 victory on Wednesday night.

Atlanta United was 0-5-4 in MLS play since beating Chicago 3-0 on March 31. But it never trailed on Wednesday, with Lobjanidze scoring late in the first half to put his side on top and adding the second in the 59th minute. After Messi's score, Atlanta United kept all 10 field players in the defensive end whenever the hosts had deep possession in the final 30 minutes.

Messi got his 11th goal of the MLS season, tying Luis Suarez for the team lead. Inter Miami (10-3-4, 34 points) kept a one-point lead atop the Eastern Conference and the overall MLS standings over Cincinnati (10-3-3, 33 points). Cincinnati lost to Nashville on Wednesday night, missing a chance to take the top spot.

Inter Miami entered Wednesday with a 7-0-3 mark in its last 10 MLS matches. It is now 10-0-4 when allowing two goals or less in MLS play this season — and 0-3-0 when surrendering three goals or more.

So, Wednesday was a dud. The first half of the season, though, has gone largely to plan.

With 34 points through exactly half the MLS schedule — matching its total from all of the 2023 season, when Messi joined around the midway point and helped the team win Leagues Cup but couldn't get it into the playoffs — Inter Miami is on pace for 68 points this season.

Mathematically, yes, that's correct.

Realistically, well, probably not so much.

The plan, for now, calls for Messi to play at least some minutes when Inter Miami plays host to St. Louis on Saturday. After that, Messi will be trading Inter Miami's pink kit for the blue of Argentina — playing for country instead of club for a bit.

Copa América — the 16-team tournament which runs from June 20 through July 14 — is looming, with Messi set to play for defending champion Argentina and Suarez a possibility to play for Uruguay. They may miss MLS matches when Inter Miami plays at Philadelphia (June 15), vs. Columbus (June 19), at Nashville (June 29), at Charlotte (July 3) and at Cincinnati (July 6). Following the Copa América final, Miami also has home matches against Toronto (July 17) and Chicago (July 20).

Unlike most leagues, MLS schedules games during some FIFA fixture periods, when release of players to national teams is mandatory. And after Copa, it would seem likely that Inter Miami may lose some players again when national teams call for the Paris Olympics.

Messi had some opportunities in the early going, including a diving header about four minutes into the match off a chip into the middle of the box by Jordi Alba. Messi, fending off some contact, sent the ball into the turf and the carom spun over the crossbar; he gave Alba a thumbs-up for the idea as he picked himself up from the grass with a smile.

And in the 21st minute, Messi sent a chip toward the left post — just over a leaping Robert Taylor, who would have had plenty of net to aim for had he been able to attempt the header.

His goal in the 63rd minute was a typical Messi masterpiece, threading a ball between two defenders and just inside the right post, barely out of the reach of a diving Atlanta goalie Josh Cohen.

Here are five things to know about Lionel “Leo” Messi, one of the greatest footballers of all time, who plays for Argentina’s national team and MLS club Inter Miami.
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